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Essay on Place - St.Thomas USVI

Orin Hayes
Many Caribbean islands are reliant on tourism as a main source of income. A decline in
tourist activity can be observed during the period known as hurricane season. Many factors are
influenced by this time of heightened risk of environmental damage. Mainly, there seems to be a
significant link between the hurricane season and travel to locations in frequent contact with
hurricanes. This is in fares poorly for the economy for these regions as they are deprived of their
primary source of revenue.
Hurricane Season and the Tourism Industry in the Caribbean
The 2017 Hurricane season marked one of the most destructive hurricane seasons for the
Caribbean as multiple category 5 hurricanes devastated both architectural and economic
structures. In the wake of this disaster many islands whose economies were based on tourism
were harmed greatly. The scale of the destruction on those islands hit directly was immense and
the estimated costs exceeded 102$ billion surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina in expense
(Masters, 2017) But the storm's impact did not end there and instead expanded to the tourism
industries of islands affected by the storm’s path. In a survey completed by 300 tourists, about
40% of which considered the hurricane season as a factor in deciding their vacation destination
(Foster, 2012). As time passes and the climate situation only worsens creating more powerful
storms for the Caribbean and southern parts of the US more people become aware of hurricane
season. Hurricane Season negatively impacts the tourism industry of Caribbean islands through
environmental, economic, and travel implications. Tourism travel data can be examined to
determine if there is a significant link between the hurricane season and the travel carried out by
tourists. The causes of these patterns may be more complex than one might first think.
Prior to the 2017 hurricane season, many Caribbean tourist economies were thriving even
during the time period of hurricane season (June 1st to November 30th). The economic toll taken
on by those islands affected has greatly harmed their tourism industries through the destruction
of the environment. Key tourism destinations on the islands had been damaged and entire
ecosystems changed by the loss of leaves and other habitats for birds and other creatures. This
environmental damage is credited with the damaging of locally grown mangrove trees which act
as a habitat for many fish and other life (Taillie, 2020). The loss of many mangrove
environments temporarily hindered the ecosystems for many mammals and fish. Additionally,
Mangroves act as a protective barrier from storm surge. Storm surge is a rising of the sea as a
result of atmospheric pressure changes and wind associated with a storm (Oxford Dictionary,
2022). The aerial roots of a mangroves forest retain sediments, stabilizing the soil of intertidal
areas and reducing erosion (Thampanya, 2006). When the mangroves were uprooted and blown
away by the storm, the ecosystem and sediment lost its natural defense against the sea in many
areas. This triggered storm surge to enter into the low elevation areas of many islands and caused
debris to be carried inland. This caused increased pollution in many areas including highly
popular beach destinations for the tourist population. Compiled with the destruction to many
marine life environments, storm surge created poor water conditions for many beaches and low
elevation areas. Tourism as a whole had basically slowed to a crawl as a result of this and many
locals were left picking up the pieces while having to deal with trash floating in their streets. For
businesses that involve giving tours to tourists, many visit the mangroves to showcase the
fascinating ecosystems of mangrove enriched areas.
The economic impact of hurricane season on Caribbean islands is negative because
tourists travel there less. Less tourists visiting these destinations means less income generated by
tourist attractions and thus results in an overall lower GDP. A 2015 study concluded that regions
with stronger economies prior to natural disasters had lower disaster related losses compared to
regions with weaker economies (Kim and Marcoullier, 2015). Therefore, it can be said that
regions that are less economically successful suffer greater losses during hurricanes, both
economically and physically. More money can be spent on preparing the area for a storm which
results in lower damage to infrastructure, and the rate of tourism in the region is then more likely
to stay at a reasonable level. In this regard, many would-be tourist destinations remain
inadequate in comparison to other areas' economic sectors (Daniel, 1970). Adaptation to climate
change on these islands in the Caribbean by their respective governments are slow and thus
affect the tourism industry negatively. This is a weakness in those regions exposed to the paths of
hurricanes while also reliant on tourism as their primary source of income for numerous
businesses. Economically, the decline in spending to prepare for storms ahead of time is
associated with a decline in the tourist populations of these islands. When a mega-season such as
the 2017 hurricane season impacted areas such as Florida and Puerto Rico, the drop in tourism in
those areas was noticeable. The severe damage caused by the storms lowered the projections for
growth in the industry by between 1 and 2% (Fraser, 2020).
Tourism in Caribbean islands is greatly affected by the hurricane season, tourists are less
likely to travel during this period. The results of a 2013 study concluded that tourism arrivals
were about 2% lower than had a hurricane not occurred in a region (Granvorka, 2013). Even
when the hurricane season isn’t predicted to produce storms if any, the likelihood that tourists
will visit are always lower. Weather behaviors have an influence on the destinations of tourists
and this is especially true when it comes to hurricane season. In particular, areas where tourism is
the main generator of income for small businesses and governmental establishments. The impact
this has on short term rental business relates to the concept of the high and low season. The least
busy season is known as the “low season” or “off season,” while the busiest season is called the
“high season” or “peak season.” (Scotts, 2022). These are general terms that describe the level of
traffic a destination undergoes during different parts of the year. In the tropics, where hurricanes
frequently pass throughout the season, the low season is typically also hurricane season. There
are a variety of factors that play into this, for instance the price of rental in a location may vary.
To compensate for the lower traffic, many business owners will lower their prices in an effort to
attract potential guests. Tourism to areas impacted by a hurricane or other disaster is often
influenced by concepts such as altruism as there is typically a mass convergence of attention in
areas impacted by severe natural disaster (Pottorff & Neal, 2010).
The effect of the hurricane season on Caribbean islands as well as other tourist
destinations is great. Environmentally, hurricane season marks a period where fragile ecosystems
are exposed to great strain often leading to large levels of pollution. An example of this being the
destruction of Mangrove trees which create shelter for marine life and other creatures.
Economically, the sector for hurricane preparedness is left underdeveloped in many areas. In
areas with greater economic leverage and ability to spend money on measures to reduce damage
after a storm. The impact of hurricane season on areas in frequent contact with storms is a
lowered projection for the level of tourism in the area. Traveling patterns for tourists are also
changed by the hurricane season. Tourists are less likely to visit areas frequently impacted by
hurricanes and this results in the formation of a low and high season in many areas. The impact
this has on short term rental income and other tourist driven businesses is noticeable. Then it can
be said that hurricane season negatively impacts the tourism industries of Caribbean tourists
through environmental, economic, and travel implications.
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